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Torchwood - Children of Earth
Started out promisingly, was stretched so thin it was hard to stay awake through the middle, and ended up, this evening, as unrealistic, sentimental, manipulative twaddle. Not to mention being totally out of character.

It tried to tug the heart strings so hard that they twanged into comedy. Hey, didn't any of these soldiers have kids themselves? Didn't they have brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces? Where did they come from, anyway? Surely most of them would have been rounding up kids in Afghanistan? Actually, I doubt it...

People are programmed to protect kids. You don't overturn that programming by an order from the PM. Really.

Keep it quiet? Tell that to the Iranians!

I suspect it was meant as trying to overturn the old Star Trek ethic, old and new - both "the need of the one can override the need of the many" and "there is no such thing as a no-win situation." Except they had to go and win.

This is RTD's revenge on the fans. Lead them down the garden path with a (totally out of character) love story between Jack and Ianto, bring in all the families, have Gwen get preggers (cripes, how much fan fiction has the man read?) and then destroy it all and thumb his nose at everyone.

Personally, I'd have dropped an atom bomb on the aliens at the start. Or on Torchwood: Cardiff.

Total crap.

ETA: I did not spoiler-cut this because much of the above is pretty general criticism. However there are large spoilers in the comments.
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It sagged rather heavily in the middle of the week. I'm ambivalent about it, but the one thing to be said is that at least it's ambitious drama. If that's the end of it, we can expect more air time for talent shows and reality TV. Oh joy unlimited.

And the ending (and most of that last ep, come to think of it), if you'll excuse the cultural studies waffle, reinforced heterosexual norms, which is really very tiresome.

Ambitious? There was nothing ambitious about it. It wasn't Village of the Damned or Quatermass (to which a friend of mine has compared it) just unoriginal riffing on the former, and with a message that was done much better in Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations which had the advantage of being heart rending, short, and not involving belching aliens or bad special effects.

I thought it was rather good, myself :-)

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Actually, you'd be amazed how much crap the people of these isles will swallow without resorting to mutiny. Sad, but true.

I got a bit lost on episode 4 - in that it wasn't strong enough for me to sit and watch, so I half-watched while emailing.

I knew it would all end badly the moment Ianto died. The camcorder shots made me think of Cloverfield, and for a while, I was quite excited by the idea that it was all going to end _really_ badly. Something to palallel the last series of Blackadder.

Of course, at the end of Cloverfield, there is space for Cloverfield II, and we know that the War to End all Wars was not that at all, but set the pace for a century of violence.

I wanted Torchwood to go further than Cloverfield (and where history contstrains Blackadder from going) - I wanted it to be the end of the world.

I just dislike all these images of distressed kids and crying major characters while the huge authorial thumb (in Langford's phrases) pushes the characters into doing stupid/out of character things in an attempt to manipulate the audience, not to mention the stupidity of the technobabble for the so-called 'solution'.

People are programmed to protect kids. You don't overturn that programming by an order from the PM. Really.

Which is why I thought the innoculation scheme was a neat touch.

In a country where we can't get people to innoculate their kids against MMR or teenage girls against cancer? Where we can't even get kids to eat good food without their parents pushing junk through the fence? Where practically no child goes anywhere without their parents? Where parents don't even allow them to play on the streets?

Give me a break.

What about the rest of the world? This was supposed to be happening across the globe. You can't get people to vaccinate against polio in some parts of Nigeria, for instance.

Can you see how all of this went down in the US midwest? How many people would be out there with rifles protecting their right to pray over their kids to save them from whatever was out there?

RTD just did not think it through. But then, he never does.

"I thought the innoculation scheme was a neat touch."

I have two kids. I am big supporter of vaccination. I was watching and thinking "no way would I allow that injection to be given to either of my kids. Ever. Under any circumstances".

I'm intelligent, educated and think vaccines are one of the greatest scientific advances ever made. If *I* wouldn't trust the story I doubt very many other mothers would.

You know what, I actually quite liked it. I had pretty much given up on Torchwood. Its usual scheduling means that it clashes with NFL games, and it wasn't really good enough for me to video and watch later in the past. This series (or serial I suppose) worked for me though.

I take your points about the vaccination programme seeming rather too easy (80%!) and not really seeing the other countries. In fact, I think your American rednecks defending and praying over their children would make for a really good scene.

As someone else said, Peter Capaldi was very good. I was disappointed that he didn't say "fuck" often enough, but then maybe I was hoping for Malcolm Tucker, not John Frobisher. And I liked the guy in the brown lab coat. Very much like the Post Office engineers that built computers and stuff that Oxbridge mathematicians took the credit for in the 40s and 50s.

I wasn't as shocked by the method of selecting 10% as I was presumably supposed to be. Getting rid of the chavviest 10% of the child population isn't altogether a bad thing - and certainly better than destruction of the human race I would have thought. But nobody seemed to make this point - we were all obviously supposed to think that this was appalling and wrong, but there was no suggestion that the authorities had any real alternative.

But in a way, that's just picking holes in what I thought was a good SF drama. I can definitely see why you didn't like it though. And I can see why a certain section of Torchwood fans liked it.

One thing that has amused me no end on other people's threads about this is christians desperate to read some sort of christian message in the writing. (I'm pretty sure that not only is RTD an atheist, he has also insisted on Doctor Who having an atheist tone.) Apparently Captain Jack (or was it Martha) = Jesus or something, and Owen was Longinus (the Roman soldier who piereced JC on the cross with a spear) apparently because he cut Martha with a scalpel.

Jeez... I'm no christian, but if Jack is Jesus, I must have missed the bit in the new testament where he buggers the disciples...

Edited at 2009-07-11 11:06 am (UTC)

Though RTD is indeed an atheist, he does seem to like Christian redemption themes - after all, he did write "The Second Coming" with which this does share some points of resemblance. It also shares plot points with various Sarah Jane Adventures and with Dark Season. It is definitely there occasionally in Dr Who, particularly the season finale with the Master a season back.

I keep harking back to the critic who remarked, anent something else entirely, that Gay writers tend to idealise heterosexual relationships (to which, it must be said, my immediate response was, "And vice versa.") I don't know anything about RTD's co-writer on this one, but I did get the impression that not only were the heterosexual marriages idealised, but so were the children. I'm not at all sure that this pair of writers really understand children or their relationships with their parents.

I am not particularly concerned about the appeasement of the aliens in the circumstances, though I do think there would have been argument and lots of countries (particularly the fundamentalist Islamic ones who, no doubt, do not believe in aliens anyway) refusing to participated. I am concerned about the sheer impracticality of the whole thing.

As I mentioned, I did think it started very promisingly indeed, and I liked some of the secondary characters.

I have seen some comment from Torchwood fen who are deeply upset with the characterisation. That, I can definitely understand.

I have been provoked into addressing an opinion.

I thought it was going rather well until episode 4 when everybody started behaving out of character. Why did Jack not run into the smokey room and shoot the alien? Why did the team give up? Why did everyone turn into people more childish than the children they weren't protecting.

As for the junkie aliens - give me a break.

Even Frobisher gave up and shot his family. That just wasn't reasonable.

RTD loves these big, save the world stories and they have always bored me. This would have been a much better story if it had been confined to the British Isles (as it was in practice). Then we could have had some great lines from the French and Americans about how 'they brought it on themselves'.

I think the real problem was this wasn't a Torchwood story. Torchwood HQ was eliminated so they can't act in their normal (ineffective) manner. I missed that.

In essence, this was a big story told on the cheap. Count the number of special effects and you'll see what I mean. Torchwood's promotion to BBC1 was a demotion, 5 episodes and don't spend any money or we'll cancel it completely.

What it needed was a small story writer and RTD can't do them. I would bet you money that the last two episodes were substantially rewritten to avoid spend. Can't have a battle, can't have a war, can't even afford an explosion. Well then we'll have to fill in with people emoting into camera, nice and cheap, don't you see?

Don't blame the writers, blame the production budget and the initial ambition. A much more subtle story with children being stolen across Britain could have brought real terror and fear to the script. But RTD is not that writer.

The recent radio Torchwoods were much better, much more interesting (in fact, some of the most interesting Torchwood scripts ever), and much more in character.

I will blame the scriptwriters, because, ultimately, despite everything, this is RTD and the decisions re Jack's actions were his. (John - take a look at the comments by neadods for a view from a committed fan that really nails what was wrong with that last episode.

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